Attorney for Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence: “Your comments have brought my client to disrepute and odium and have held up my client to ridicule among the people of Trinidad and Tobago and among his peers in the football community, both locally and internationally.
“I, therefore, call upon you to publicly apologise to my client forthwith to avoid further legal action…”
TTFA board member Keith Look Loy: “[…] If it is that he believes he has been held up to ‘disrepute, odium and ridicule’—not by his disastrous record as head coach but by my opinions and the facts—then I do apologise for hurting his feelings and for exposing his reputation to said ridicule…”
The following is a threat of legal action by Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence, via attorney Marsha K King, and the response by TTFA board member Keith Look Loy:
I act on behalf of Mr Dennis Lawrence, the National Football coach.
I am instructed by my client that on 4 July 2019 during a televised press conference, you made some comments concerning my client which were defamatory in nature.
In response to a question from Mr Walter Alibey asking the panel how do you intend to deal with the question of finances for the National Team and the Pro League, you volunteered a response, to wit: “It looks like the national coach needs armchair psycho analysis because he goes all the way to when he was in Malick when I was his coach 30 years ago. So that needs some deep psycho analysis, right.”
That response implies that my client suffers from sort of psychosis which requires treatment.
Your response came as a result of a truthful remark made to the press by my client on 3 July 2019 about you, to wit: “When I was 15 years old, that’s the same guy who said to me. ‘You would not make it in football’. I didn’t take his advice then.”
At the same press conference on 4 July 2019 in the presence of past and present persons who are involved in the sport of football in Trinidad and Tobago, you further stated: “Secondly, you have MLS players in that team that (sic) were either not used or misused or abused.”
By this statement you implied that my client has abused players from Major League Soccer, a league run by United States of America.
My client is a well respected football coach both locally and internationally. Your untrue, unfounded, malicious and disrespectful remarks were published to the world at large and were made before a panel of persons who are involved in the sport of football in Trinidad and Tobago, namely Mr Anthony Harford, Mr William Wallace, Mrs Susan Joseph-Warrick, Mr Raymond Tim Kee and Mr Shymdeo Gosine.
On 7 July 2019, my client wrote an email to the TTFA Board, of which you are a member, requesting an apology from you within seven days thereafter. You responded twice by email on 7 July 2019 categorically refusing to apologise to my client and intimating that you would ‘counter-sue’.
All of these comments came as a result of your article in the Newsday in June 2019 in which you advised my client to resign.
Your comments have brought my client to disrepute and odium and have held up my client to ridicule among the people of Trinidad and Tobago and among his peers in the football community, both locally and internationally. I, therefore, call upon you to publicly apologise to my client forthwith to avoid further legal action and to pay my client’s costs in the sum of $5,500 within seven days of the date hereof.
Take notice that should you fail to do as requested, legal proceedings will be commenced against you without further notice.
On Wednesday 17 July I received correspondence from the legal representative of Senior Men’s National Team head coach, Dennis Lawrence, which claimed that my recent post-Gold Cup comments on the performance of the team in the tournament, and my comments at the recent joint media conference on the current state of the TTFA held by several TTFA member presidents: “have brought my client to disrepute and odium, and have held my client up to ridicule among the people and Trinidad and Tobago.”
In evidence of this claim, Lawrence’s representative offers my remark at the joint media conference, made in response to a claim by Lawrence that I told him, which I do not recall, that he would ‘never make it in football’.
At that media conference I said: “It looks like the national coach needs armchair psycho-analysis because he goes all the way back to when I was his coach thirty years ago” to respond to my criticism of his and the team’s performance.
Further, Lawrence’s representative refers to my comment that at the 2019 Gold Cup ‘you have players in that team that were either not used, or misused, or abused’.
In sum, the claim by Lawrence, via his representative, is that my remarks were ‘untrue, unfounded, malicious and disrespectful’, and he has demanded that I ‘publicly apologise to avoid further legal action and pay his legal representative $5,500’—presumably for services rendered.
I am astonished by this development. Coaches are subject to criticism in every country, particularly when their results are poor—as is the case with Lawrence. I am advised that this claim has no legal merit. Nonetheless, I have chosen to respond to this via public media in a accordance with Lawrence’s letter.
First, I will provide context. Dennis Lawrence was appointed by the TTFA Board to replace Stephen Hart after Hart was unceremoniously dismissed during the CONCACAF Hexagonal qualifying tournament for FIFA World Cup Brasil 2018.
The TTFA Technical Committee in due course recommended Stuart Charles-Fevrier to the TTFA Board as its first choice for the position of head coach. Terry Fenwick was its second choice. This was rejected and the Board appointed Lawrence against the caution of the Technical Committee that he had never coached a high level team in competition nor won an elite trophy.
In the two years of Lawrence’s tenure he has accumulated a record of 23 matches played, four matches won, five matches drawn and 14 matches lost.
I remind you that Hart was fired for having lost TWO matches as was Hart’s replacement Tom Saintfiet, the Belgian, who failed to get us to the 2017 Gold Cup.
In the aftermath of the 2019 Gold Cup, indeed after the 6:0 disaster against USA, I criticised the team’s performance and—given his disastrous record and clear incapacity to handle the job in my opinion—I called on Lawrence to resign, making the point at the same time that he has just received a very lucrative two year contract extension, which the TTFA cannot afford to buy out and fire him. Which he very well knows.
I, as a loyal supporter of Trinidad and Tobago football and, more so as TTFA Board member, have a responsibility to TTFA and the country as a whole [to ensure they] receive value for money spent. My criticisms were made in with this in mind.
However, if it is that Lawrence is suffering unsustainable personal hurt occasioned by what I believe to be legitimate criticism of his abysmal record; if he is enduring insufferable personal pain due to my response—made in jest—to HIS reference to an unsubstantiated incident 30 years ago; if Lawrence believes that my critique, as a TTFA Board member, of his performance as national coach is damaging to his reputation even in the face of his catastrophic record—then I apologise.
Regarding the matter of the MLS players. It is a fact that Greg Ranjitsingh, an MLS player, was included in the squad and was not used (i.e. unused) in the tournament. It is my technical opinion that Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones, MLS players, were not properly used (or were misused) in the tournament.
It is my personal opinion, which I stated in the joint media conference of TTFA member presidents, that were I the father or agent of Greg Ranjitsingh, I would have long ago advised him to forget playing for TT because I consider the continuous invitations he receives without being selected to play to be abusive.
Again, if it is that Lawrence is suffering deep personal trauma provoked by my personal and technical opinions and by the objective facts of his tenure; if it is that he believes he has been held up to ‘disrepute, odium and ridicule’—not by his disastrous record as head coach but by my opinions and the facts—then I do apologise for hurting his feelings and for exposing his reputation to said ridicule.
Finally, in the immediate aftermath of yet another poor performance by one of our national teams, in this case the Under-15s, it is clear that TTFA’s national team programme, its coaching appointments, its coaching performance, are a complete debacle. This is so with all of our teams, in both genders, and in all age groups.[This statement] is not opinion. It is there to be seen in the tidal wave of poor performances and last place finishes that the football loving public has now grown accustomed to.
In that sense, criticism of and resignation by coaches is almost irrelevant. The crisis in our national teams, coaching included, merely reflects the crisis in TTFA administration. TTFA and TTFA decision-making need to be cleansed. Root and branch. The responsibility for this lies clearly with the TTFA electorate come November.
I apologise in advance for any pain caused to anyone by my opinion in this regard.